Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC
A Community Interest Company (CIC) ‘Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub C.I.C.’, was approved in 2012 for trading by Companies House.
What is the Drill Hall Hub CIC?
Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC (Community Interest Company) was a community organisation that I set up to take forward the Drill Hall campaign.
Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC grew out of the campaign that was run between January 2012 and March 2013 to stop the demolition of Sidmouth Drill Hall. Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC devised, sourced, and delivered projects that focused on community engagement, local economic growth, the coast, creativity and the arts, sustainability, and responsible tourism.
Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC supported a responsible, considered and sustainable development of Port Royal and the Eastern Town of Sidmouth. Such development and regeneration comes from maximising existing assets in order to establish an appropriate and inclusive environment that will lead to long-term community led redevelopment. To that end, regeneration of the area is best served via restoring and opening the Drill Hall at Port Royal as a community meeting, eating, arts, and heritage space.
At March 2018
In 2011, East Devon District Council submitted an application to demolish the building. Had it been demolished not only would we have lost a great piece of history and the potential to create an incredible space for the community that would expose the original Victorian bricks and floorboards, repair the original terrace, and open up the basement. The basement currently looks lower than it actually is because of the build up of rubble, sand and silt around it. It could easily house the Gig Longboats, a microbrewery, or similar.
I launched a campaign in 2012 to stop the demolition which gained much support. EDDC withdrew their application to demolish the building based in part on the amount of objection to it and that its own Conservation Officer would not allow it based on the fact that it sits within a conservation area. In addition, J G G Radford placed a covenant on the Drill Hall protecting it for the people of Sidmouth for all time.
Following the successful outcome the campaign gained much support. However it was equally vilified in certain quarters. I held a series of meetings with key people in both councils involved and was told throughout that there would never be a chance of the Drill Hall being saved and restored for public use. The main reason for this, as was confirmed when I became a councillor in 2015, was that the development of 30 apartments within a large mixed use space at Port Royal was in the Council’s Transformation Strategy, along with developments at Seaton and Exmouth, and as such it was in the Local Plan.
In 2012, I returned from an EU conference in Rotterdam with a €600,000 project on regeneration of coastal areas. I brought members of Sidmouth’s fishing community into the project and compiled a board, and while the project raised the awareness of fishing heritage in Sidmouth and launched the annual Sea Fest event, it was pretty much overlooked by both councils. We ran the first Sea Fest event in 2014, and in 2015 over 2,000 people attended despite the worst weather I had ever experienced in Sidmouth with wind and rain blowing hard off the sea straight at us all weekend.
We still took some £9,000 from bar, food and ticket sales and I tried, following Sea Fest 2015, to get all those involved to take time to look at all aspects of finance, legal, constitution, income, profits etc. But they refused. The co-founder of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC and Sea Fest had organised the food and bar while running his own restaurant and did not take a penny. It cost him a lot of money. The event was always meant to be not for profit, but we had to find a system where people were paid for work they did. Some of whom were.
I set up a Crowdfunding campaign to raise money to take a unit in Sidmouth where people could find more information on the campaign and continued to try to convince the existing board that in order to move Sea Fest forward properly as an event and build an opportunity, on which Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC was built and for which all Friends leant their support, we needed to take the time to sit down and look at things properly. But with no joy.
In January 2017 I had a call from my account who I had set the Drill Hall Hub CIC up with to ask did I know I had been removed from the board? I didn’t. I then had a call from our bank manager who I had set the company up with, borrowed £10,000 from, and run £120,000 through in the first year of trading to say I had been removed from the account.
I never had a problem with there being a separate organisation that focussed solely on the coast, art, and education or an arm of Sidmouth Drill Hall Hub CIC that did that. But that was not why the Drill Hall Hub CIC was set up, which was based on a campaign to save, obtain and restore the Drill Hall, and as such to steal that company to create another one is not just wrong it is, according to Companies House, illegal.
I do not have the resources to challenge it in the courts and after seven years of work on this I have no option but to move on.
As a result Sidmouth Drill Hall CIC no longer legally exists.
And the ultimate final irony? In 2017 when the Scoping Study and consultation on Port Royal was launched I had a one-to-one meeting with the hired planning consultant. It was of little surprise to discover that he had not been told about various potential restrictions for planning at Port Royal including that it was in a conservation area, that there is a covenant on the Ham and Drill Hall, and that the Environment Agency had raised the flood zone to the maximum level 3. He agreed with me that the best route forward lay in the restoration of the Drill Hall and as a result no developer would touch it and if they did they would not gain planning approval.
That was his report back to EDDC who promptly dropped all plans for a 30 apartment, 5 storey, development at Port Royal and instead they will now focus on selling the Drill Hall which now, suddenly, is where the future of that area lies.
Matt Booth, March 2018